Turkish-EU Relations After the EU Summit of 17 December 2004, lecture delivered at the regular business luncheon of the EU Ambassadors in Ankara, 18 February 2005

TURKISH-EU RELATIONS AFTER THE EU SUMMIT OF 17 DECEMBER 2004

 luncheon with the EU Ambassadors, Ankara, 18 February 2005 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor for me to address such a distinguished audience.

I consider this luncheon as an opportunity to share with you candid views about the current state of affairs in Turkish-EU relations particularly after the European Council of December 17.

On this occasion, first of all, I would like to thank Ambassador Gosses for organizing this gathering.

Additionally, I would like to thank him again for his efforts during the Dutch Presidency. He shouldered a significant responsibility during a very important period in the history of Turkish-EU relations. Now, he is assuming the same task but this time as an acting-representative of Luxembourg in Ankara.

I do believe that his tenure in Ankara would find a place in his memory as one of the unforgettable parts of his professional life.

Excellencies, Distinguished colleagues,

In its report and recommendation of 6 October last year, the European Commission has stated that Turkey had fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria sufficiently for the opening of accession negotiations. The European Council has endorsed this assessment through its decision of December 17th. All this will not make us fall in a sense of comfort of having achieved the task we were set to do. Quite to the contrary, our government is determined to follow the path of further reform and make sure that these are properly applied. We are aware of the shortcomings that we have to address and resolved to tackle each and every one of them.

Over the 40 years since the Ankara Agreement, Turkey-EU relations progressed on the basis of strategic convergence and solidarity.

We may have had ups and downs, which should be natural. But the final destination of full integration has never been lost.

I do not want to dwell on the things that were experienced during the European Council of 17 December in detail.

What I would like to emphasize here about the Conclusions of December European Council is that it is once again proved that if the parties acted in a cooperative and conciliatory spirit, most of the issues that seemed challenging could well give acceptable results for all the parties. Conciliation and compromise is the main trait of the EU culture to which Turkey also adheres.

We have entered a new phase in Turkey-EU relations after the European Council of 17 December.

Obviously, there is a long way before us for the eventual membership of Turkey.

However, this should not prevent both Turkey and the EU to make good use of the time until October to finalize the needed preparations so as to make a good start at the negotiations.

Both Turkey and the EU have things to be done on their agendas.  Turkey has the determination and courage to achieve the things in her agenda. It is our understanding that the EU has also the same determination as regards its agenda.

That is why I deem this gathering important to understand each others expectations for the coming period.

The Luxembourg Presidency will prepare the necessary ground work for the adoption of the important documents on our common agenda, namely;

  • the revised Accession Partnership,
  • the Framework for Negotiations and
  • the Commission’s suggestions regarding the political and cultural dialogue between Turkey and the EU in which civil society will also participate.

Our aim is to have these documents finalized through close cooperation with the Commission and the Luxembourg Presidency. We are confident that the Commission and the Presidency will take our views into consideration in this whole process.

What is important at this crucial time is to keep alive the determination of both sides by taking proper steps in this respect.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

The first and second Accession Partnerships were drawn with a purpose. This was the fulfillment of the Copenhagen political criteria by Turkey for the opening of negotiations. Turkey prepared the National Program in return and revised it according to the second accession Partnership.

This time, the Commission will prepare the revised or the third Accession Partnership. Although it is considered as an EU document, we expect the EU to be in close contact with us during its preparation.

The Commission will also prepare the “negotiating Framework for Turkey”.

We have examined the draft “Negotiating Framework for Croatia” prepared by the Commission.

We expect the Commission to adopt a similar “Negotiating Framework” for Turkey” at the earliest possible date. We are aware that the negotiating framework for Turkey will reflect our specific characteristics and the level of our preparedness for EU membership.

I would like to express our readiness to cooperate with the Commission on the preparations of the “Negotiating Framework” in the same manner for the Accession Partnership document.

I would also like to touch briefly upon the screening process.

We are aware that the Commission intends to start screening after October 3.

While we do not question the need of a screening process, our experience should be taken into account.

In addition to our Customs Union, which touches several chapters, we have gone through a scrutiny process for the past 4 years. A fifth round of meetings of the sub-committees will take place this year until October.

Normally the screening process is about going through the acquis and explaining it in detail. We should be very open and clear here.

Turkey is not at the beginning of the process, as it was the case in 1998 for the other candidates. At that time, the other candidates did not have as much knowledge as Turkey has acquired up to now.

In this respect, we believe that this process should not take too long.

Once the Framework for Negotiations is accepted by the Council, we could start this process before October 3. This would save both sides valuable time as we need to use it in a productive manner.

It is our understanding that in order to start negotiations on a given chapter; we do not have to wait for the whole screening process to be completed. In other words, once a chapter is screened, negotiations on that particular chapter can begin.

In any event, we believe that we should be closely involved in the preparation of this process as well.

The Commission is also preparing its proposals as regards the framework and modalities of the political and cultural dialogue to be instituted parallel to accession negotiations. As agreed during our meeting with colleagues at the commission in January, we are also elaborating our views and will submit our contribution in the coming weeks.

There are many historical and cultural prejudices towards Turkey within the public opinions of some Member States. On the other hand, the bold principle of “unity in diversity” seems not to have captured the heart and minds of the European citizen yet.  Racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance are unfortunately still present among certain circles in Europe.

We believe that enhancing the political and cultural dialogue between Turkey and the EU will help dissipate misperceptions and sensitivities among the EU public opinion vis-à-vis Turkey. It will also ensure a better understanding of Turkey in Europe and of Europe in Turkey. We therefore welcome this initiative which we see as a complement to Turkey’s own endeavor in making itself better known in Europe.

            Allow me to spare a few words on economic criteria.

            Our alignment to the EU acquis pertaining to economic criteria has already reached an advanced stage.

            Turkey has been pursuing a comprehensive macro-economic program supported by an IMF stand-by agreement since December 1999.

            Turkey has continued to implement the program successfully and in 2004 the inflation rate reached its lowest levels of the last two decades. Inflation in consumer prices declined significantly on annual average to 10.58 % in 2004 from 25,30% in 2003. Inflation in wholesale prices has dropped to 11,09 % in 2004 from 25,56% in 2003.

            The gross national product is estimated to have increased by 10% in 2004, again above the envisioned 5% while the income per capita rose by more than 20%. GNP has reached 460 billion € in 2004. The economic growth rate for the first nine months of 2004 is recorded as 9,7%. As regards economic growth, Turkey occupied the first rank among OECD countries in 2004.

            Turkey is the 18th largest economy in the world.

Turkey in the world is the:

  • 2nd flat glass producer
  • 6th cement producer
  • 6th clothing exporter

Turkey in Europe is the:

  • 1st artificial fertilizer producer
  • 1st TV manufacturer
  • 6th refrigerator manufacturer
  • 7th iron and steel producer
  • 7th manufacturer in the automotive industry

            Since 1986, around 170 companies are completely privatized. In 240 mixed companies state shares have been sold.

            6311 foreign investment companies operate in Turkey and approximately one third of Turkey’s banks are foreign. Turkish direct investments in 50 countries amount to 50 billion euro.

            According to the latest figures, Turkey’s exports amounted to 63 billion dollars (49bn€) and imports to 97 billion (75.5bn€) in 2004.  The total foreign trade volume has thus reached 160 billion dollars (125bn€), 100 bn (78bn€) of which with the EU.

            The European Union with 53% share is Turkey’s major trade partner while Turkey is the EU’s 7th partner.  (The second rank in Turkey’s trade is shared by the US and Russia with 8% each.)

            In 2004, Turkey’s export to the EU amounted to 24,7 billion € while the imports from the EU 32,8 billion Euro. The trade deficit in the EU’s favor is 8,1 billion €. The EU is clearly the biggest trade partner of Turkey.

            In 2004, 17,5 million tourists visited Turkey. The number of tourists is 25% higher than that of the previous year. 10 million tourists (61%) came from OECD countries.   Over 20 million tourists are expected in 2005.

            The structural reform agenda that we adopted also resulted in a marked improvement in market confidence and economic performance. The decline of the nominal interest rate from 70% to 17% proves that the economic program is on the right track.

            On January 1, you, yourselves witnessed the launch of a new currency by dropping six zeros from the old one.  By doing so, we will be able to rebuild confidence in our national currency.

            We are confident that by the time of EU membership, Turkey’s economy will grow strong enough to be a source of dynamism, not a burden to the EU.

            Therefore, Turkey will not be a strain to the EU budget but in the contrary become an asset.

            Despite these positive macro economic indications Turkey has not been assessed as a functioning market economy by the EU. Our perception is that the Commission needs a track record. We expect the EU to agree with the IMF and World Bank that Turkey is indeed a fully functioning market economy.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, 

            Let me turn to the commitments of the EU.

On 26 April 2004, the EU committed itself to ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. However, ten months later, the EU is yet to adopt the regulations on financial assistance and direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots.

The improvements recently decided regarding the implementation of the Green Line Regulation will in no way be sufficient to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. The Green Line Regulation applies only to trade between the North and the South and as such cannot replace or meet the aims of the regulation on direct trade proposed by the Commission.

Although the Turkish Cypriots have criticized the changes to the two drafts, they expect these drafts to be approved together.

The current changes on the Green Line Regulation are welcomed but are not of a substantial nature.

We do hope that there is no confusion between this Regulation and the Direct Trade Regulation that is still pending.

The Direct Trade Regulation along with the Financial Regulation will help alleviate the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

Both the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey still expect these two drafts to be approved in their original form.

            After the December European Council, the issue of signing of the Additional Protocol by Turkey before 3rd of October was brought forward.

We have been studying the latest draft of the Additional Protocol sent by the Commission.

We will sign the Protocol well before 3 October 2005 as agreed during the European Council in December. There is no question about that.

Excellencies, Distinguished colleagues,

Turkey will stick to its positive posture towards finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. We will continue to cooperate with the UN Secretary-General and support his efforts. But nobody should expect Turkey to embark upon an adventurous process.

We appreciate the EU’s support for the UNSG’s efforts on Cyprus. It is important to keep the efforts aimed at finding a solution to the issue under the aegis of the United Nations.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

I am present here also as the Chairman of the Harmonization Committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

            I would like to emphasize that we give special importance to our relations on parliamentarian level with the EU countries, as well as the European Parliament. The two Committees in our Grand National Assembly, namely the EU Harmonization Committee and the Joint Parliamentary Committee, are showing a lot of effort to keep the momentum with respect to our relations with the European Parliament and the parliaments of the Member States.

            Our relations on the parliamentarian level have especially intensified after the publishing of the 2004 Regular Report for Turkey on the 6th of October. Within this framework, in the year 2004 the EU Harmonization Committee visited Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and our Joint-Parliamentary Committee paid visits to Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

            In 2005 the EU Harmonization Committee already visited  the Czech Republic and the Committee is planning to visit Greece, France, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia and Luxemburg in the coming months.

            The EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee will be holding its’ 53rd regular meeting this coming week on the 23rd and 24th in Strasbourg.

            Our relations with the European Parliament are developing steadily. It was a great pleasure for us to see Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles, the President of the European Parliament in Turkey last December. It is evident that the European Parliament has great interest in Turkey. The attention attributed by the Members of the European Parliament during the debates in Mr. Eurling’s report on Turkey actually shows the importance attached to Turkey.

            I firmly believe that our relations with the European Parliament and the parliaments of the Member States will continue to flourish and positively contribute to Turkey’s accession to the EU.

            Excellencies, Distinguished Collegues,

Now I am at your disposal for your questions.

I thank for your attention.

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